PhD candidate Sandra Makumbirofa spent the best part of July in Italy conducting surveys for her research project. Her focus is on Tourism Economics and her thesis forms part of the Green Bubbles project. Here is her report from the Mediterranean:
In my warm clothes, exhausted from the 10 hour flight from O.R Tambo airport Johannesburg, with two stop overs in Frankfurt then Munich, I finally arrived in Genoa, Italy to make my research debut in Europe. It was hot and humid as summer had just started. The streets were filled with people chattering in a language that sounded so passionate and captivating. Over the weeks I witnessed Italians speak with so much enthusiasm and hand gestures. It was always so fascinating to listen and watch them converse.
Overwhelmed with expectations and wonder, this is my first year PhD and I had the opportunity of doing a study based on fieldwork in Italy and therein, was embarking on my first data collection.
I was sampling Portofino Marine Protected Area (MPA), which involved engaging with dive operators in Rapallo and Santa Margherita. Portofino is a coastal resort town in the northwesterly province of Liguria. It is famous for its magnificent harbor and a favoured destination for the affluent and famous. My research is part of an EU funded project for sustainable diving called Green Bubbles RISE in collaboration with eight other entities from Italy, the Netherlands, Malta, Turkey and the United States. The sample population were scuba divers who were asked to fill out a questionnaire. As most natives do not speak English, the helpful dive operators assisted in ensuring we successfully obtained sufficient questionnaires.
After a long day pacing back and forth between different dive operators, using the few Italians phrases I had learnt, I would look forward to a cup of gelato at my favourite gelato place- Bar Margherita, overlooking the elegant boats by the coast. I travelled in a team of 5 people, being the only student with 4 professors from the NWU. We also met up with the team from the Netherlands and 1 lady from the Italian team. We had good networking sessions and briefings on how each team was progressing towards their goals.
What astonished me the most was the local shops closed from 1pm till 4pm. A whole three hours dedicated to lunch and siesta. This is primarily because they have longer days in summer with the sun setting at 10pm. The roads are mostly narrow and buildings are high rise to accommodate as much as possible on the little space they have. Because of this most people use bicycles, scooters, motor cycles and small cars.
With my adventure at an end, I wish to say; ‘Grazie, Italia!’ your country was as beautiful as promised. If you ever find yourself in Liguria, you should definitely taste their signature focaccia. It is to die for!